The Mt Aux Sources - Amphitheatre - Tugela thread

21 Sep 2012 06:56 #55298 by JeffD
Looks like we are going to have to bale because of the weather, might still consider going up on Sunday depending on forecasts closer to the time.

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21 Sep 2012 07:16 #55302 by ghaznavid
Which forecasts are you looking at? is usually fairly accurate (except for their wind forecasts), their meteogram for the Sentinel for the weekend is:

I'm not critising your decision and you are wise to take unnecessary risks, but personally, if I cancelled hikes every time the weather forecast looked bad I would have canceled almost every hike I have ever been on. Even my last 2 full day hikes (Thumb Spur and Thaba Ngwangwe) had atrocious weather forecasts and ended up having perfect weather.

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21 Sep 2012 08:27 #55304 by JeffD

Looking at:

Weather SA is issuing warnings of severe thunderstorms

Also had a discussion with a friend of mine having a speed kiting event at Sterkies this weekend, so he studies charts religiously, & he doesn't advise it.

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21 Sep 2012 10:51 #55305 by ASL
Don't take me as a reference... I think Mountains are an opportunity to play in bad weather. My only proviso is have great kit to protect you.

Alternatively, once you are above the chain ladder there is always the danger of getting trapped by snowfall, high winds, icing up of the ladder or all of the above so I recommend using Crows Nest Cave for protection/ retreat. It's near perfect protection in a storm and is East facing so it slips all winds coming through from Lesotho.

Its also important to take ski poles or some kind of walking stick if it snows or there is ice. You need something to anchor yourself on slopes or slipper sections in the absence of ice axes and crampons which we don't normally need here.

On my recent stay in the cave the average temp in the cave was 0 deg and the lowest just before dawn was -3 deg so that gives you an indication of sleeping bag requirements.

There's lot's more to consider but I hope that helps you?

PS. If you go to the cave you can go lighter without tents and if you leave early enough just come back down if conditions are bad and sleep at the car park bunks (not my best but survivable option).

Have a great weekend!

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25 Sep 2012 09:51 #55325 by JeffD
Trip to the Berg:
On Friday we decided that we would go through on Saturday & make a call at the Sentinel Car Park as the weather was not looking great. As we drove down the wind was picking up & in Harrismith the wind was pumping already so I was a bit nervous.
When we got to the car park the wind was gale force & the clouds were low & dark. After standing around for a while I made the decision not to go to the top as I didn’t want to risk being ill prepared & climbing the ladders would be a challenge.
We did however decide to pack a bag with ponchos, lunch & emergency supplies & take a walk up the zig zags to the Sentinel as we were there & wanted to make the most of it. We were about 2 thirds of the way up when the rain & a bit of hail started so we quickly needed to put our ponchos on. We started heading down as I didn’t want to be caught in a storm but it stopped after heading about 150m down. We then decided to go back up as far up as the view point to make the most of it. We got to the view point & had our lunch looking over the Amphitheatre in all her glory as the viewpoint was sheltered from the wind. There was even a bit of thunder which got amplified by the Amphitheatre & sounded quite intimidating. After lunch & with the rain starting again we headed down. The wind was hectic & I think it was more like 50knots than 50km/hr. There was no ways I felt comfortable going up, climbing ladders & pitching a tent in that weather. I think it would have been irresponsible as the warning signs were there. The Saints boys had however gone up the day before & another group of youngsters were heading up when we got to the Car Park & I thought they were mad.
We then decided to go to the Amphitheatre Backpackers & camp there for the night. We thought we would be adventurous & take the R74 but it cost me (will still cost me) as I got a puncture in my Navara’s back right tyre as a result of the poor state of the road. I was a bit stressed as I didn’t want to have problems & drive poor mountain roads in the dark with not the greatest weather around. However, out of nowhere a farm worker appeared & helped me change the tyre by doing most of the dirty work. I was very grateful & gave him a generous tip. I was now quite nervous as we were far from a city, on a long weekend, with no spare wheel however the puncture occurred at the end of the bad section & the Natal section of the road is much better. It is very sad how the area has been let down by the now bankrupt Free State Transport Department. Accommodation spots on that route are closing down as less people are making the trips via Harrismith.
We got to the Backpackers which I would recommend. We set up camp & did everything like we would have on top of the mountain, except we had toilets, showers & used the blow up mattress. The Backpackers is fully equipped with kitchens, restaurant, bar, pool, climbing wall, pool table etc. etc. but we stuck to using all our camping equipment to test them & try our meals. The weather had cleared a lot & it was a very peaceful evening. Our tent faced the Berg for an awesome view. If we stayed a bit longer at the Car Park we might have attempted the summit. At about 8pm the wind however started coming up again & we could see a front rolling in over the mountain & I was again glad with my decision not to go up. During the night it rained a bit but nothing serious.
We woke up to it being overcast. I went to the river at the Backpackers to try some fly fishing but it was a bit of a waste of time ito fishing as I saw no life in the river but I did enjoy walking around in the peace & quiet. We then decided to go to the Royal Natal National Park (think that is what it is called) to do a day hike. By the time we got there after packing up etc. it was a stunning day, not a cloud in the sky & just a slight breeze. We decided to do the Gorge trail which the guard told us would take us 3hrs one way so as it was already late in the day we walked at quite a pace. We got to the gorge in about 1:45hr had our lunch & then went on further to the tunnel, it was beautiful. There is a chain ladder that can take you further up & towards the Tugela Falls but another hiker said it would take about 2 hours one way which we didn’t have. We headed back at an easier pace as it was downhill, no rush & Nats took lots of photos.
We then headed on to our accommodation, The Tower of Pizza, which was nice & served good pizzas although you have to wait quite a while as it is busy.
The next day was another stunning day but we had to head back. We took the alternative route back as I was not risking going on the R74 with no spare. The N3 was busy as it was the end of a long weekend but luckily we had no tyre issues.
I definitely want to go back now to summit the Amphitheatre as the bug has bit again & I can’t believe it has taken me +- 15 years to do again.
The following user(s) said Thank You: ghaznavid, brio

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26 Jan 2013 17:12 #55943 by Parag

Me and my wife are planning to go on hike on Tugela falls (Mt. Aux sources). This will be our first hike and would like to know what all should we carry for the hike? Also, what all precautions should be taken for the whole journey? Every suggestion is welcome. Thanks.

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26 Jan 2013 18:11 #55946 by ghaznavid
Welcome to VE :thumbsup:

Ok - first things first, make sure you have a good map, Mont Aux Sources is over 2km from Tugela Falls :laugh: But seriously, make sure you have a good map. Ok - I see you're not from SA, so I'll let that one go ;)

Are you overnighting? Security near the top of the Chainladders and near the top of the falls can be really bad, so don't camp around there. Binjali valley or any spot south of the Binjali ridge is usually ok.

Be ready for any weather - hail, mist, snow, rain, lightning or gale force winds. Sometimes you get odd combos of them, e.g. hail and snow in thick mist (had that in October last year)...

Take a space blanket (you can get one from any outdoor shop) - they are light and fairly cheap, and can be used as a blanket in an emergency.

Make sure you have extra food and a waterbottle - dehydration is a big risk in summer, although there is water on the top.

Any specific questions, feel free to ask :)
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27 Jan 2013 17:49 #55947 by Parag
Thanks Ghaznavid. From where can I get map of Tugela Falls? If you have one could you please share it with me.
Most probably we will be doing a day hike.

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27 Jan 2013 18:06 #55948 by Smurfatefrog

Parag wrote: Thanks Ghaznavid. From where can I get map of Tugela Falls? If you have one could you please share it with me.
Most probably we will be doing a day hike.

If you are just going up the chain ladders and to Tugela Falls then you shouldn't need a map.
There is only 1 path to the chain ladders, cant get lost
On top from the chain ladders to the falls is only a couple kilometres and also has a good path

Just make sure you take enough water, you wont go past any rivers until you are on top, and take clothing for all possible weather

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27 Jan 2013 19:50 - 28 Jan 2013 13:52 #55949 by ghaznavid
What Smurf says is very true - you can't really get lost on this particular route, but you should know more or less where you are going and beware of mist (common this time of the year). Last year I had a less than pleasant case of getting "lost" on the top (although in an area with no paths) in thick mist without any equipment (not even a compass or map) and having to find my way back to where the rest of the group had set up camp in fading light - if I didn't know the basic layout of the area from memory of earlier that day (I'd never been there before) and considered how we chose the campsite I could very easily have had a major problem. I'm not trying to scare you, just please don't go blindly into these mountains - its called the Dragon's Mountains for a reason. You wouldn't be the first person to end up in real danger on this particular route - its relatively easy, so lots of people don't take the risks seriously.

You can download a bad quality version of the old maps (not very different to the current ones) at this site , if you want a map of the Royal Natal side, this is a link to it . I imagine you will be going from Sentinel Carpark, so you shouldn't need the second one. But I would really recommend taking a copy of the map along. You can probably get a map at Witsieshoek or at a hiking shop. Its called Map 1 - Amphitheatre in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park Geomap series.

As for the route - from the car park there is only one major path which leads towards the mountains. Follow it until it hits the chainladders, climb them and keep following it over the minor Beacon Buttress ridge. You then walk behind a large hilltop like thing and see this view:

From there its just a case of following the river to the top of the falls (notice how wide the path is).

However, the best spot to view the falls is further along:

This was taken during the very dry autumn we had last year, the falls would normally be visible where the cliffs are blacker. I don't recall there being a path to this spot.

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Last edit: 28 Jan 2013 13:52 by intrepid. Reason: Removed reference to Bilanjil which may be confusing.

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